Do you like them?
I have to admit, I don't. Not really. Yes, I want to read about the rolling hills or dirty streets, and I don't want to have to decide for myself if the house is big and filled with expensive paintings or little and filled with junk. Although if an author tells me about every single trinket, I'll cross it out with a magic marker. Get to the action already! But I'm not really talking about that.
I'm talking about the big 'ol squickfest I've gotten lately from stories that love to feature cruel, sadistic villains. Don't get me wrong, I love a good villain, even a psychopathic one. But I fear the CSI/NCIS world we now inhabit loves gruesome, gory details.
Mysteries need details. Sherlock Holmes' very existence hinged on them; and details woven into the narrative can be fun when I read the end of the book, where the detective brings them all together in the room filled with the usual suspects. I'll either feel like a brainiac or a dolt, depending on whether or not I spotted the clues, but I'll agree they are needed.
What bothers me is this: do I really need to know exactly how badly the body is mangled? Each and every cut, burn, and slice on a torture victim? While the victim is being tortured, so I can visualize it, real-time?
I know that sometimes a horrific scene can be powerful; used sparingly I can handle that. Even though I hated Jamie's rape in Gabaldon's Outlander, I could appreciate how well it was written. But it seems lately when I pick up everything from a historical to an urban fantasy to a suspense, and I'm talking romances y'all, I am treated to long descriptive passages about the gross, graphic things that can happen to human body. It could be a serial killer, a sexual pervert, a demon on a rampage, or a vengeful vampire queen; doesn't seem to matter. I need a bottle of TUMS by my side during the read, and a shower afterwards.
There's an old saying that less is more. I personally think it's more terrifying when the author leaves a little to my imagination. The writer doesn't know what scares me, but I do. If I get to fill in the blank and scare the crap out of myself, I'll call that author the best writer ever.
And if I wind up needing the TUMS anyway? That's my fault, not yours.